A toy developer with whom I used to work was recently deceased. His wife asked me to cart away his old stuff from the garage. There were many interesting things among the relics of his career.
This is footage of a prototype for a road-racing toy that was never manufactured. It was similar in operation to conventional slot car sets, but without the slots, or motors in the cars. The track was a long ribbon of lithographed rubber with a linear array of magnets inside. The magnets were pulsed in succession to create a "moving" field. The cars were tiny, about three-quarters of an inch long. They consisted of a one-piece, thin, floppy rubber shell surrounding a plastic framework containing very strong magnets. The cars moved forward When placed on the track, driven by the magnetic pulses. Drag friction was not a problem, for the cars were levitated a small distance by the magnets and the car did not actually touch the track. The manufacturer felt the "rippling" of the car bodies, caused by the magnetic pulses, was unattractive because it resembled maggot locomotion. The manufacturer was also of the opinion that the cars' odd "wheel stubs" were off-putting. The fragility of the device, the waning popularity of road racing sets, and the relatively high cost of a toy based on this design did not warrant manufacture and marketing. Development was cancelled while a promotional video was already underway. This footage is from that incomplete project.
The production of this video was quite interesting. The car was photographed with a ceiling-mounted motion ntrolled camera on a grid of metal rods which were arranged like the guide grid inside an Etch-A-Sketch toy. It had a "snorkel" lens, much like the ones used to photograph miniature spaceship models in the old days of special effects before computer animation became practical. The lens of this camera has extreme depth-of-field. The toy protype could be operated with great precision, so it was possible to specify camera positions progressively as the car drove around the track, and the camera would track the car after the coordinates were entered into the stepper motor memory. Usually, motion control cameras of that vintage were used for single-frame photography, but in this case the real-time performance was quite useful. The camera smoothly swoops around the miniature track, keeping the car in frame.
Music and narration was prepared but it has been lost. This is simply the raw footage of the first and only prototype in action.
June 4, 2006 Subject:
It looks like an animation to me, too, but it's REALLY cool! I'm going to put it on a DVD and see if my cats will try to 'catch' the little car as it whizzes along. :D
September 27, 2005 Subject:
Whatever the technical pitch above, I am quite convinced this is 3D animation : no background, sharp shadows...
With sound, this fake testimony would deserve 5 stars !!!
September 21, 2005 Subject:
What was this inventor's name?
I'd like to see more of his work.
Everything about this piece reeks of genius!
I wonder how it acted with more cars on the track?
Thanks for sharing this Archive of technology almost lost.